MBA in Nonprofit Management Program Information

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for individuals who lead social service programs and community organizations will grow by 18% between 2016 and 2026 -- nearly three times the rate of growth for all occupations in the U.S. Similarly, the BLS projects that employment for healthcare executives and administrators will grow by a staggering 20% over that same time period.

The BLS projects that employment for healthcare executives and administrators will grow by a staggering 20% over that same time period.

In addition to strong employment prospects, jobs in these fields can provide lucrative salaries. For example, the BLS found that the median salary for social service and community managers rested at $64,100 in 2017; this represents a value more than $25,000 above the median wage for all other jobs in the U.S. Healthcare administrators can earn even more, with an estimated median salary of $98,350 in 2017.

To access the highest-paying jobs in these fields, however, you typically need to hold an advanced degree. Review this page to learn more about what you can do with an MBA in nonprofit management.

An MBA in nonprofit management can prepare you for a variety of leadership roles in the public service sector. Generally speaking, you should gain at least two years of experience at a nonprofit -- through a combination of internships and full- or part-time employment -- before pursuing an MBA in this area.

Once you earn this level of professional experience, you should decide whether to earn your degree online or in person. Online learning can benefit working professionals; this format often allows you to watch lectures and complete assignments on your own schedule and from the comfort of your own home. Alternatively, an on-campus education typically provides more structured learning opportunities. For example, students in a traditional classroom setting may find it easier to collaborate with their classmates and interact with their professors.

You should also consider the types of skills you need to pursue your chosen career path. MBA in nonprofit management programs help students develop a broad foundation of knowledge in organizational theory, financial administration, board governance, and strategic planning, giving graduates the flexibility to work in many different positions and fields. If you hope to take on a more specialized leadership role, such as becoming the director of a disease research organization, you may want to consider a degree in a more closely related field.

Pursuing an MBA in nonprofit management also confers many non-academic benefits. For example, these programs can help you build your professional network, making it easier to find work and collaborate with former classmates and professors in the future. Job candidates with an MBA may also command higher salaries than those with just a bachelor's degree.

What Can I Do With an MBA in Nonprofit Management?

With an MBA in nonprofit management you can work in areas such as healthcare, education, and philanthropy. You could choose to work at a small nonprofit organization, helping a particular community, or at an international relief organization working in several different countries. Some graduates pursue careers in consulting, while others seek out employment at a corporation to help coordinate charitable activities.

Regardless of your chosen path, a career in nonprofit management requires strong organizational, analytical, and interpersonal skills. Nonprofit professionals should also possess a great deal of empathy and a strong commitment to helping others.

Social and Community Service Managers

These managers coordinate and lead social service programs and community organizations. They often assess community issues, such as the need to provide housing for homeless veterans, and design programs to meet these challenges. Individuals who oversee large organizations should also possess strong managerial skills.

Median Annual Salary: $64,100
Projected Growth Rate: 18%

Medical and Health Services Managers

Often referred to as healthcare executives or healthcare administrators, these professionals plan and direct medical and health services. They may lead an entire facility (e.g., a hospital) or a smaller part of a larger organization (e.g., a burn treatment ward). Many employers prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree in a field like health administration or nonprofit management.

Median Annual Salary: $98,350
Projected Growth Rate: 20%

Administrative Services Managers

Like the roles discussed above, these managers coordinate and direct the operations of an organization or a department within an organization. An MBA in nonprofit management can help prepare you to lead corporate and social responsibility programs at for-profit companies.

Median Annual Salary: $94,020
Projected Growth Rate: 10%

Top Executives

Top executives devise strategies and bear responsibility for the work of large organizations. By earning a nonprofit management MBA, you can develop skills applicable to positions such as the director of a charter school network, the CEO of a nonprofit insurance company, or the head of a local or state government body.

Median Annual Salary: $104,700
Projected Growth Rate: 8%

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students at colleges, universities, and trade schools. They may also conduct research and use their findings to write scholarly articles and books. While an MBA in nonprofit management may qualify you to teach at some community colleges, you may need a doctorate to teach at a four-year institution.

Median Annual Salary: $76,000
Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Choosing where to earn your MBA in nonprofit management may feel daunting, but answering the questions below can help you think more carefully about what you want and need from a prospective program.

How much money you can afford to spend? While an MBA from a prestigious university might lead to more job opportunities, it may take you significantly longer to recoup your initial investment compared to if you had attend a state college.

How long do you want to study? Most full-time students can earn their MBA in about two years. However, if you hold other personal or professional obligations, you should consider programs that allow for part-time enrollment.

Does the convenience of an online program appeal to you? Distance education offers many benefits, but pursuing an online degree requires a great deal of self-discipline and time management -- make sure this kind of learning suits you before enrolling.

Do you want to pursue a particular specialization? For example, you may want to embark on a career with an international non-governmental organization (NGO); however, not all programs offer concentrations or coursework that can help you develop the skills needed to pursue this position.

Where is your program located? While this tends to be less of a concern for online learners, the physical location of a college or university can make a tremendous impact on the cost of living, quality of life, and employment opportunities of students and graduates.

Finally, what does a program require beyond completing coursework? Some students may enjoy experiential learning experiences that come with required internships or practica, while others may prefer to write a research-based thesis.

Programmatic Accreditation for MBA in Nonprofit Management Programs

You should only consider accredited schools when looking at nonprofit management programs. Accreditation ensures that an institution meets certain academic standards and adequately prepares graduates for careers in their chosen fields. If you attend an unaccredited school you may struggle to find a job or encounter difficulty transferring credits or qualifying for financial aid.

Three broad categories of accreditation exist. Most nonprofit colleges and universities receive regional accreditation, which is generally considered the most prestigious form. Alternatively, for-profit and vocational schools typically receive national accreditation. Finally, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) also recognizes organizations that award programmatic accreditation to specific programs in particular fields. For example, CHEA recognizes the authority of the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) to award accreditation to MBA and other business-related programs.

You can search CHEA's online directory to determine whether an MBA in nonprofit management program holds regional, national, or ACBSP accreditation.

Whether you plan to study online or on campus, the admissions process at most schools remains largely the same. You must first submit your application materials, which typically include your undergraduate transcripts, scores from standardized exams, your resume or CV, letters of reference, and a personal essay. Many schools also charge an application fee.

After receiving your application materials, a business school may ask you to complete a phone or in-person interview, although online programs may be less likely to make this request. Following this interview, a school will tell you whether you have been admitted, denied, or placed on a waiting list.

As a general rule, you should apply to at least three programs. Among these, try to apply to at least one "safety school," which represents a program that you think you should definitely get into based on your current grades, test scores, and professional experience.


  • Bachelor's Degree: Virtually all MBA in nonprofit management programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Some may also list prerequisite coursework in areas like finance or economics.
  • Professional Experience: Experience requirements vary from program to program. Many schools require applicants to possess at least two years of applicable professional experience, although some programs cater more to recent college graduates.
  • Minimum GPA: The majority of programs require applicants to hold a GPA of at least 2.5. However, schools may make exceptions for students with extenuating life circumstances, particularly high test scores, or a record of strong non-academic achievement (e.g., community service).

Admission Materials

  • Application: Your application is the first thing an admission office sees, and you should spend a considerable amount of time working on it. Graduate schools do not use the Common Application, so carefully research what each program requires.
  • Transcripts: To apply to MBA in nonprofit management programs, you must submit academic transcripts. To do so, contact your former schools -- both undergraduate and graduate -- to request copies of your transcripts. Schools often charge a small fee for these copies, and they may need several weeks to complete your request.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Most programs ask applicants to submit at least three letters of recommendation. To meet this requirement, you should reach out to former professors, employers, and mentors who can speak to your qualifications and experience. Avoid using friends or family members. Give your recommenders ample time to write your letter, and try to ask them several months before application deadlines.
  • Test Scores: Many business schools require students to submit GMAT scores, although some may also accept Graduate Record Examination scores. Schools typically do not state a minimum required score, instead using these results as one component of your overall application package.
  • Application Fee: Application fees typically range from $50-$250. In some circumstances, schools may waive this fee for individuals who demonstrate financial need or for those who served in the military. Contact your admissions office directly to see if you qualify for a fee waiver.

You can customize your learning experience in business school by selecting a particular area of concentration or by enrolling in certain elective courses, such as human resource management or environmentally sustainable building design. You can also further personalize your education through internships and student activities.

Concentrations Offered for an MBA in Nonprofit Management
Concentration Description Careers
Healthcare This concentration features coursework in areas like U.S. health policy, healthcare finance, health informatics and health information technology systems, and regulation and strategic planning. Graduates may go on to work for hospitals, insurance companies, health service organizations, or government agencies working in the healthcare space. Hospital administrator or director of a community health clinic
International Relief Students in this concentration develop a broad understanding of globalization and specific technical skills. They may take courses that cover subjects such as resource development, cultural contexts, international governance structures, and cross-institutional collaboration. These classes help prepare students for work at international NGOs. International development consultant or foundation program officer
Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Within this specialization, students learn how to start and manage for-profit companies that aim to advance the public good. These programs offer coursework in areas like business ethics, social justice, and change theory. Graduates can assume leadership roles in public and private sectors. Small business owner or CEO of a regional development corporation
Environmental Management The prospect of protecting the environment draws many students to the nonprofit sector. This concentration allows individuals to explore environmental law and policy as well as strategies and best practices in sustainable community development. Graduates may work for a government agency regulating environmental impact or for a corporation working to reduce its environmental footprint. Head of a state environmental agency or LEED-certified project manager
Education An MBA in nonprofit management with a specialization in education readies graduates for many roles in the field of education. Students may take classes in financial and personnel management to prepare for a career as the head of a charter or private school. Alternatively, students can study community relations and education policy to lead youth advocacy organizations. Principal of a charter school or program director for an after-school enrichment organization

Courses in an MBA in Nonprofit Management Program

Although the exact courses you take vary from school to school and depend on your specialization, the core curricula of the best MBA in nonprofit management programs contain many similar classes, covering subjects like accounting, leadership, and applied research. The list below describes five classes commonly available in these types of programs.

Ethics and Social Justice

Leaders in every sector face ethical challenges. This course helps prepare students to face those challenges by providing a background in social justice issues, such as economic disparity and racial privilege. Learners often select a particular ethical or social justice issue, conduct in-depth research, and use their findings to make a recommendation for improvement or change.

Organizational Management and Leadership

Running a public service organization requires more than just programmatic knowledge; it also requires an understanding of the organization itself. In this course, students examine issues like organizational culture and development, change management, and systems theories through case studies in private, governmental, and nonprofit settings.

Board Governance and Volunteer Management

Nonprofit executives hold unique relationships with members of their governing boards and other volunteers. Students taking this class learn how to effectively recruit, orient, train, supervise, communicate with, and evaluate those who seek to aid an organization without the promise of compensation.

Strategic Planning

One of the most important responsibilities of a nonprofit leader involves the creation of a clear and effective strategic plan that guides the work of their organization. By using realistic scenarios from the public service sector, students in this course develop and test strategic plans.

Applied Research and Evaluation Methods

Especially common in programs that require a thesis, courses in research and evaluation represent a critical component of a business student's graduate-level education. Students learn how to properly collect, analyze, interpret, and apply data to assess community needs and design programs to address challenges.

How Long Does It Take to Get an MBA in Nonprofit Management?

An MBA in nonprofit management consists of approximately 60 credits, and most students earn their degree in about two years. However, some programs offer accelerated courses of study where students can graduate in as little as one year. Alternatively, if you need to keep your job or devote time to caring for a child or member of your family while attending school, you should consider programs that allow individuals to attend school on a part-time basis. Part-time students typically take significantly longer to graduate.

Additionally, learners enrolled in traditionally paced programs can try and reduce the amount of time needed to graduate in a few different ways. For example, some programs provide course credit for prior experiences, such as military service, and some schools also allow students to take larger than normal course loads; however, individuals who go this route may struggle to keep up with their readings and assignments.

How Much Is an MBA in Nonprofit Management?

The cost of an MBA in nonprofit management varies widely depending on the institution you choose. Earning your degree at a private school, for instance, typically costs considerably more than earning the same degree at a public university. For example, at Stanford's business school, graduate students pay more than $70,000 per year in tuition alone. In contrast, at the University of California, Davis, graduate students from California pay roughly $39,000 in tuition per year.

Remember to also consider non-tuition expenses. If you study on campus, you likely need to pay for housing and fees associated with campus services and activities. Depending on how far you live from school, you may also need to factor in costs related to commuting, parking, and/or childcare.

Learners who pursue a degree online can avoid some of these costs. Additionally, many online programs charge all distance learners the same tuition rate, regardless of where they live; this can lead to significant savings.

Certifications and Licenses an MBA in Nonprofit Management Prepares For

Series 7

Administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FIRA), the Series 7 exam allows MBA graduates to sell securities and possess the legal power of an agent in the U.S. The exam takes about six hours to complete and costs $305.

Series 63

Also administered by FIRA, the Series 63 exam qualifies candidates as securities agents within a particular state. Nearly all states require professionals to pass this exam to hold this position. The test, which covers regulations in the Uniform Security Act, consists of 65 questions and takes approximately 75 minutes. Testing fees vary by state.

Certified Public Account

Individuals with a CPA designation can provide accounting services to the public. To become a CPA, you must pass the Uniform Certified Public Accounting Examination, complete a minimum of 150 semester credits of college education, and possess at least one year of accounting-related professional experience.

Certified Financial Planner

This credential signals an MBA graduate's expertise in the area of financial planning, although states do not require this designation to practice. To receive CFP certification, individuals must pass the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards exam and agree to adhere to certain codes of ethics and conduct.

Chartered Financial Analyst

Held by over 150,000 professionals around the world, the CFA designation recognizes professionals working in the field of investment management. To become a CFA, you must pass three levels of exams, complete four years of professional experience in investment decision-making, and join the CFA Institute as a regular member.

U.S. Department of Education

The Department of Education oversees a variety of financial aid programs for both undergraduate and graduate students. Students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to find out if they qualify for support.

MBA Depot

MBA Depot offers resources for prospective and current MBA students, including tips on composing personal essays, a database of MBA programs, and guidance on who and how to ask for letters of recommendation.

HBS Working Knowledge

This site offers articles that draw on the research and experience of faculty from Harvard's business school. MBA students can seek out sources for papers or catch up on unfamiliar subjects like agribusiness.

Purdue Online Writing Lab

Like any graduate field, business demands exceptional writing skills. The Purdue OWL offers several writing tips, including how to structure a persuasive essay and how to create a resume.

Professional Organizations for MBA in Nonprofit Management Students

Professional organizations provide important support to graduates of MBA in nonprofit management programs. They offer professional development and training resources, provide networking opportunities at annual conferences and regional events, and advertise openings in the field through career centers and job boards. Whether you work at a nonprofit organization, charitable foundation, or government agency, the five organizations listed below can help you achieve professional success.